High speed dental handpieces are perhaps the most important piece of equipment in the dental office. Known to laymen as the “drill,” this instrument, operated by dental turbines, allows the dentist to effectively remove decay from teeth. Without a handpiece, a dentist would be unable to fill teeth or perform root canal procedures. Because of the expense and importance of these instruments, it is important that the dentist and staff know how to properly maintain high speed handpieces.
Handpieces should be sterilized after each use. This is traditionally done in a steam autoclave. Handpieces should be scrubbed free of any debris but should not be placed in an ultrasonic bath due to the risk of moisture contamination or rust. Instruments that are heat sterilized are often placed in bags with color-changing indicators that alert the dentist or assistant whether or not the proper temperature has been reached inside the autoclave.
As soon as there are signs of malfunction of a handpiece, it should be sent off for repairs. Handpieces that get too hot or do not operate effectively can be dangerous to patients and could potentially cause harm to a tooth. Therefore, if the handpiece is not operating at peak performance, another one should be used in its place, and it should be sent for repair. Always follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance of handpieces.
Unfortunately, all pieces of dental equipment, including handpieces, have a lifespan. At a certain point, it is time to dispose of the instrument and replace it with another. Some manufacturers allow you to recycle your old handpieces to receive a discount on new ones.
Proper maintenance of dental instruments can greatly extend the length of time they are usable. Always follow manufacturer recommendations and follow proper sterilization, maintenance, and disposal procedures.